(CN) – Two parents in Texas don’t want their children to be forced to observe a moment of silence in school, but the 5th Circuit ruled that though the parents can sue, mandatory silence isn’t necessarily prayer.
David and Shannon Croft, parents of three children, sued Gov. Rick Perry, claiming that the Texas Education Code that requires a moment of silence in the classroom is an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Perry, holding that the moment of silence had a secular legislative purpose and was not an establishment of religion.
The appellate court agreed.
The Texas Education Code provides for a mandatory moment of silence in Texas schools, during which a student may “as the student chooses, reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.”
The justices agreed the Crofts had a standing to sue because their children are in public school and are required to participate in the moment of silence. However, a moment of silence cannot violate the Establishment Clause, as there is no active religious component. The court said the Crofts were too focused on the word “pray.”
Justice J. Clement wrote: “While we cannot allow a ‘sham’ legislative purpose, we should generally defer to the stated legislative intent. Here, that intent was to promote patriotism and allow for a moment of quiet contemplation. These are valid secular purposes, and are not outweighed by limited legislative history showing that some legislators may have been motivated by religion.”